There once was a boy they called the luck-child, for he was born wrapped in a caul and a prophecy: that he would one day marry the king's daughter, and be her father's downfall; and never have Jak and I argued as we did about him.
It was Jak who won, and her story you know, and in her honor that the boy became known as Jack.
But it is not the only story worth telling.
He was killed, the first time, too early to yet have a name, in a land where babies were still only a chance of a child til their first birthdays; for kings have power, and dislike being overthrown, and above all love their daughters. But in truth, the luck-child did not die; and I have always thought it was Jaklyn who stepped in to keep afloat the crate that should have sunk with the weight of the infant inside. A Story-Maker is never to intervene, and she has always denied it, but we both saw the king with desperate fear line the base with rocks.
And I cannot claim, either, that I have never lent a hand.
The king could not forget the prophecy, though he supposed the boy dead. He went home and planned for the future: tests to challenge his daughter's suitors, for such was the custom of the time, and so greatly did he love her even from her infancy; and so much, too, did he fear the coming of a man whose aim in courting her might not be his daughter’s happiness.
How it was that the luck-child came to the king’s palace even I am not sure—except that he was a luck-child. Tales speak of chance encounters: of a strange old man claiming to hold magic beans, of the king sending him with orders for his death, even of a forged note granting him the girl's hand. But truth be told, to compete for the love of a princess was hardly an unusual thing for such an ambitious young man.
They fell in love, as young men and women do, and the king demanded three treasures of the boy to prove his worthiness, as fathers do.
And the luck-child grew resentful, as young men do.
Here, too, the tale grows confused; some speak of thievery, others of a giant's treasure, and still more of a great vine hewn down from the sky in which it grew. What is certain is that instead of earning his way, or pleading his love, the luck-child went to the devil himself, and the devil recognized his kin—in thought and in spirit if not in blood or in person. And the devil leant down his great head, and let him pluck three golden hairs. The first turned into a sack full of gold, but the sack itself was golden, as if spun into thread directly from the ore. The second turned into a hen, herself all golden, who laid eggs of solid gold. And the third became a golden harp that played so sweetly without the touch of a string that the luck-child nearly forgot himself.
But only nearly.
He was not a fool, the luck-child. He had noticed the red-haired beauty and her white shadow of a twin, who seemed always to linger at the very corner of his eye. He spoke to us.
He spun a tale, and we were new to our journeymanship, to traveling and Story-Making without guidance, and Jaklyn already favored him. Jack told us of an evil king who oft plotted his death, of a father who forbade his heart’s love, of a daring escape from a bloodthirsty monster with barely his life. And he spoke of his dazzling princess, and of a last, desperate chance to be with her forever.
But to blame only Jak for what we did would be wrong, for I acted too. She, with her temportation, led Jack back through time to the beanstalk from which he'd fled, younger and frightened, and they chopped it free of the earth; and so it may be said that she was the less cautious, for surely the younger Jack looked to see who had saved him as the giant crashed to the earth. But I with my skill at teleportation showed Jack the river over which the ferryman was condemned ever to ferry; and so it may be said that I did the greater harm.
And that is why for years I never dared speak of the king, endlessly rowing, crying for his daughter. I thought we had freed her to find her own love.
I went back, once, by myself, which I should never have done, for my skill at temportation is weak enough that I might never have returned. But I had to know.
I saw the luck-child, Jack as he became known, reclining in the throne, relaxed as only one who wanted for nothing could be; but nowhere did I see his wife, until I went once more to the ferry. There she was; there she lived, in a house on the bank, where she made the ferryman's dinner and lived her own life.
And while the king still ferried, he no longer cried.
This has been an intersection with the excellent halfshellvenus, whose entry may be found here.